Audiologists Warn of Safe Listening Levels

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Earbuds and headphones are becoming a common way for kids to listen to music, videos and games on various devices, but not everyone knows the dangers those can cause to hearing. Audiologists have advice to make sure your listening levels are safe.

Like many students his age, Alfredo Terrazas-Saucedo puts in his earbuds often. He said, "I use them sometimes when I have to go upstairs and do like tests and things on the computer when we're in a private place, I put them on."

Des Moines Public Schools Educational Audiologist Jackie Abram said the problem is when kids don't pay attention to the volume. Abram said, "We're actually seeing that about 12 percent of our students right now age 6 to 19 are showing noise induced hearing loss, so we know that it's happening. It's completely preventable, but once it occurs, it's irreversible."

Parents can take a couple steps to protect their kids' hearing, Abram said, "Make sure you're using your earbuds at a safe level. The biggest way to know it's a safe level is on the volume dial. You don't ever want to go above half way. So, if your volume dial has a level 10, you really shouldn't be using it past level 5."

You can go to your phone's music settings to prevent volume from going any higher. Another rule of thumb, if parents can hear music from kids' headphones, it's too loud. Also, make sure you give your ears a break. Take out the headphones or earbuds after an hour and only use when absolutely necessary.

Abram said, "It does take some years to start to show its effect. So, even though you might be in 2nd grade and you passed your screening, everything is fine so far, if you're using the headphones at a dangerous level, it can catch up with you in your later years."

As the summer approaches, audiologists also remind people to use hearing protection when mowing lawns and hunting. Those, along with loud concerts, can lead to noise induced hearing loss.